Information Warfare: May 11, 2004

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The U.S. Army has distributed a hundred prototype combat PDAs to troops for testing. The PDAs (ruggedized versions of commercial models) run on the Windows CE, rather than the Palm, operating system. Each one contains GPS and satellite communications capability. It runs on batteries and can be recharged from vehicle electrical systems. The PDAs are tied into the same network that operates Blue Force Tracker (the system that shows commanders, on a computer screen, where everyone is in real time.) Its been noted that many officers and NCOs have already been taking their own PDAs into combat zones. They have found that its easier to keep a lot of needed information on the PDA than on paper. The combat PDA would enable troops to quickly report battlefield information, as well as receiving important stuff from up their commanders. The hundred test units will be used for a number of different field tests to see what the final design should be like, and what are the best ways to use the devices. Since the 1990s, the army has been planning to get every soldier into some kind of wireless network. New technology developments are appearing so quickly that experiments like this are needed to make the most of what is available off the shelf. But efforts like this are also leading to the cancellation of longer range research projects, because current technology has rushed past the "speculative technology" of only a few years ago. The army now believes that it can get better results by keeping an eye on current technology and quickly adopting anything that seems to work for the troops.

 


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